Most world travelers worth the visa stamps in their passport have a visit to South Korea somewhere in their globe-hopping itinerary, whether it’s a memorable trip from the past or a potential journey planned for sometime in the future. Rich in history with a vibrant modern culture and an economy that bridges both East and West, South Korea (best referred to as just “Korea” during your visit) is a destination that appeals to any travel lover. And its capital city of Seoul is a must-visit.
Flip through a guidebook and peruse a travel site and you’ll get an idea of what to do on any potential sojourn to Seoul, from local delicacies to nosh to famous clubs and museums to visit, all of which is pretty standard for a trip to any major international city. But here are seven unique/fun/awesome things that you can ONLY do in Seoul.
Stroll Through Korea of Old
Any visit to Seoul requires a trip to Gyeongbok Palace, the destroyed and rebuilt (and re-destroyed and re-rebuilt) main palace of Korea’s famed Joseon Dynasty. While you’re there, make a point to detour to the nearby Bukchon Hanok Village. Preserved to resemble Korean life from 600 years ago, Bukchon Hanok is a picturesque locale with plenty of traditional Korean homes, shops, cafés, and more.
Visit the DMZ
Arguably, THE elephant in the room for most Westerners taking airline flights to Seoul is the close proximity to North Korea. Being just 35 miles from the famed Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Seoul offers tourists the unique opportunity of visiting one of the most contentious spots in the world with ease. Visitors can sign up to technically step on North Korean soil (and safely return), learn the history of the DMZ, and much more.
Take a Trip to the Legendary Lotte World
Korea’s answer to Disney World, Lotte World is a massive theme park/resort that’s open year round and combines outdoor and indoor attractions. It was even the Guinness World Record holder for largest indoor theme park at one point and includes a man-made island inside a lake, a monorail, hotel, and plenty of other features.
Attend Service at (Possibly) the Largest Church in the World
Even if you’re not religious, there’s something kind of appealing about checking out what’s often credited as the largest church in the world (even if it’s for bragging rights). Founded in 1958, the Yoido Full Gospel Church is a Pentecostal megachurch with nearly a million members. It features seven services every Sunday that can fit 26,000 people. Just don’t be late, otherwise you’ll have to watch everything on the TV screens in the overflow rooms.
Stroll Along a Highway-Turned-Futuristic Pedestrian Walkway
New York City has the High Line and Seoul has the Seoullo 7017. Originally built in 1970, this former highway overpass was re-purposed as an elevated park (AKA a “skygarden”) in 2017. The 7017 in its name is reportedly referencing both years it opened, as well as the 17 walkways connected to it. Those who walk through the eco-friendly park can find cafés, eateries, “peeping pots” (plant pots that play sounds), modern art, and a whole lot more.
Explore the Largest Shipping Container Mall in the World
What exactly is a “shipping container mall”? It’s a shopping complex built from the massive metal boxes used to transport good, modified and welded together to form levels and storefronts. Common Ground in the Gwangjin district is made from 200 containers, making it the biggest one in the world. Specializing in “pop-up” shops — temporary retail space that’s usually meant for independent or small brands — the mall is known for its dedication to boutique, hip brands aimed at those in their 20s, as well as acting as an event space and food truck area. It’s a must-visit for anyone looking to shop till they drop for the coolest and latest looks!
Check Out the Korea Furniture Museum
Okay, we admit that it may sound boring, but a visit to the Korea Furniture Museum is often cited as the best kept secret of Seoul tourism. A private museum located in the Seongbuk-dong district, guests must schedule their visits ahead of time on the museum’s website (it’s best to do so days in advance, especially for the English tours). Visitors have reported that the hundreds of pieces of traditional furniture housed in a compound of 10 traditional Korean houses (hanock), most from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897), offer a stunning and unique approach to viewing Korean history.